The sixty-year-old golfer pulled off two great chips at The Hills golf course yesterday (Tuesday March 16) in a competitive “chip off” against four other players from local golf courses to win the coveted spot.
Given two chances to be “closest to the pin” to win the experience of a lifetime, Mr Hardy was cool, calm and collected under pressure, seeing both his chips beat shots from his competitors from Wanaka, Cromwell, Arrowtown and Kingston.
The club winners – including Mr Hardy, Brad Smith, Kim Gwilliam, Les Topping and Graham Stevens – were drawn from players who scored 30 stableford points or more at individual club qualifying days.
Watched by sponsors and supporters of the BMW ISPS Handa New Zealand Open, Mr Hardy said he was “pretty wrapt” with his win, two days’ play at The Hills and Millbrook courses alongside a professional.
“Chipping’s not the strongest part of my game so I stopped off at the Frankton Golf Centre on my way here and hit about 100 chips so I was pretty warmed up,” he said.
“I was fairly confident I wasn’t going to duff it so I was really happy when my first shot came so close to the pin.”
Mr Hardy, who has volunteered for the BMW ISPS Handa New Zealand Open and the NZPGA Championship for the past five years, has played twice at The Hills as a reward for his volunteering, and said he was “hugely” looking forward to the experience of playing in the actual event.
“To be honest I’d rather not be playing with one of the top pros because the pressure might be a bit much, so I’d like to get off with a journeyman and be a bit more relaxed.
“I’ve worked at the event before as a walker/scorer so I know many of those players are great company and really easy to talk to.”
BMW ISPS Handa organising committee chairman John Hart presented Mr Hardy with his ‘ticket to the open’.
“On behalf of Sir Michael Hill, congratulations,” he said. “Those were two pretty classy and great shots.”
The four remaining golf club winners each received Michael Hill watches and two season passes to the Open.
The 2016 BMW ISPS Handa New Zealand Open will be held at The Hills and Millbrook Resort in Queenstown in Queenstown from March 10 to 13.
The Open is played in a Pro-Am format incorporating 144 professional and 144 amateur players and is a sanctioned Tier One event on the PGA Tour of Australasia in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour.
Further information and tickets are available on www.nzopen.co.nz